Sunday, September 25, 2016

Charlie Mc 1937 - 2016

McNamee, Charles S., 78 yrs., of Scituate MA; formerly of Norwood, MA.  

Charles S. McNamee, retired teacher, former monk, beloved father and grandfather, and dear friend to many, died on September 23, 2016 at his home in Scituate with his children by his side, following a lengthy illness.   Charlie – known as Bing to older friends and family and as Mr. Mac to legion of students and colleagues – was born in Norwood Mass. on November 27, 1937. Son of the late Charles A. and Mary F. (Manning) McNamee; brother of the late Catherine A. of Falmouth, Mass, Charlie loved his children and their families very much: Thomas N. of Scituate; Grace and Josh Decker and their son Alden of Missoula, Montana; Claire Z. Poole and her daughter Ava of Mashpee, Mass.; and Charles A. and Dana Crosby McNamee and their son Charlie and daughter Alexandra Kiki of Stamford, Connecticut.   He is survived also by his wife Catherine V. (McCann) of South Boston.

For 35 years Charlie taught at Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, in the areas of theology, chemistry, physics, and math.  Additionally to support his family Charlie drove a school bus route from the South Shore to Xaverian for most of his years teaching, sometimes picking up a second route in the evenings; and held a variety of summer and part-time jobs over the years including: digging for the Boston Water Department; teaching CCD instructors at Scituate’s St. Mary’s parish (1970s); teaching Scripture and sexuality education for the Archdiocese of Boston (late 1970s and early 1980s); working at Turner’s Package Store in Scituate Harbor; tutoring various subjects; driving buses to high school football games; pumping gas; teaching arts and crafts to youngsters at summer camp; and even coaching freshman basketball and the astronomy club.  Until retirement in 2006 when health became a major concern, Mr. Mac loved to attend Xaverian football and baseball games and lectures on astronomy given at institutions in Boston.   Throughout his teaching career he cherished his colleagues and thrived on the life of the classroom and his interactions with students in courses that ranged, across the years, from New Testament Scripture; to Love, Sex, and Marriage; to Conceptual Physics.  He was as comfortable lecturing about the Fig Tree Cursing as he was leading a laboratory on acceleration; though he always would pray to the Holy Spirit for support before giving a talk, and midway through his career he took to ringing Tibetan prayer bells to bring each class of talkative boys to order.  Xaverian always held a special place in his heart, and in recent years whenever he had the opportunity to spend time with former colleagues or with students the stories would pour forth and many good times were recalled.  Mr. Mac was honored with the Theodore Ryken Award in 1996 for his contributions to the school in the spirit of the founder of the Order of the Xaverian Brothers.   

A 1955 graduate of Norwood High School (where he was known for his clutch hook shot, enthusiasm for golf, and an interest in astronomy), Charlie went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering at Northeastern University in 1960.   During Charlie’s college Co-op year and summers he worked for C.I. Hayes and for Bird & Sons, but deferred any career in industry when after graduation he joined a lay Catholic apostolate, a missionary teaching program of the New England Province of Jesuits.  He spent much of the next three years in a poor hill-country town in Jamaica, called Above Rocks, where at St. Mary’s College he developed a love for teaching and met the woman who would be his future wife – she too a lay apostle from the Boston area.   Charlie loved the people of Jamaica, their irrepressible spirit, their culture, their music – especially the pre-reggae early 1960s ska – and their bottles of warm Red Stripe on hot tropical nights.  His supervisor and mentor, the Rev. Sylvio  Garavaglia, S.J., counseled him about discernment of vocation, and having been influenced by the writings of Thomas Merton (and by the example of Father Garavaglia) Charlie decided, at the conclusion of his teaching assignment, to dive into the religious and contemplative life of a Trappist monastery.  He spent five years in cloistered community, initially as Frater Dominic, then as Brother Brendan, at St. Josephs’ Abbey in Spencer Mass, practicing the monastic counsels, living in silence, working the fields and the Jam factory with other monks, praying the Divine Office, and studying.  It was a difficult but joyous and rewarding life which would leave a deep impression.  Before professing Final Vows, and having the counsel of the Abbot, Fr.  Thomas Keating, OCSO, who would continue to be a spiritual mentor, Charlie left the monastery in 1968 and married Catherine McCann shortly thereafter.  Upon completing a Master’s Degree in Dogmatic and Systematic Theology at St. Louis University in 1970, Charlie and his young family moved back to Massachusetts where he held short-term teaching positions in Harwich and at Milton Academy before starting at Xaverian in 1970-71 and moving to Scituate the next year.  From the early 1980s he faced the trial of raising his four children in a single-parent home, but he was graced by the help of his mother and older sister Kiki, and blessed by the generosity of family friends several of whom he considered living saints, some living right here in Scituate.   Eclectic spiritual reading, e.g., Fr. Raymond Brown, Thomas Merton’s The Way of Chuang Tzu, Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Emily Dickinson’s poetry – was both comfort and nourishment to him; as was, most importantly, his daily life of classroom teaching. 

During his retirement Charlie loved to spend time, whenever he could, with his grandchildren Ava, Alden, Charlie, and Kiki, who lighted up his life.   He met and corresponded with old friends and loved to grapple with or expound on heavy theological or cosmological issues, especially relishing dialogues about the spiritual life with younger associates.  He remained fond of the Cronin’s Publick House in Quincy where in recent years he’d still enjoy an occasional lunch in a small circle of close friends from the Xaverian faculty.  He loved to read and to write, and to blog (; to follow sports and politics, and to go driving in his GMC pickup.  Given his various medical and mobility challenges, he would suffer through the recent long winters yearning for the spring day when it would again be warm enough for him to sit in the sun on his porch and merely breathe – the sacrament of the present moment – in the birdsong and peace of his own, tree-lined backyard cloister.  

Charlie Mac loved God and the Cosmos and he loved people; and he was most happy when teaching along the lines of Jesus’ first words, appearing in the first-written Gospel:   “The present moment is the right time, the Kingdom of God is within you  .  [Мετανοιεσετε] Change the way you think about reality; believe this GOOD NEWS’” (Mk 1:14-15).  

Visiting hours at the Gillooly Funeral Home, 126 Walpole St., NORWOOD, followed by a funeral Mass at St. Catherine of Siena Church, 547 Washington St., Norwood. Interment will follow at Highland Cemetery, Norwood.  

The family is grateful for the compassionate care given to Dad by the professionals at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harbor Medical Associates, and the South Shore VNA and Hospice.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to:
St. Francis Inn c/o Rev. Mike Duffey, OFM; 2441 Kensington Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19125  or to the Xaverian Fund, 800 Clapboardtree St. Westwood MA 02090

Posted by his son Tom.  Requiescat in pace. 1-4-3, Dad.